Family of 7 escapes Afghanistan, seeks refuge in Triangle: 'I cannot believe it'

RALEIGH, N.C. (WTVD) -- A family of seven who escaped Afghanistan amid the Taliban takeover this summer moved into a home with a Triangle woman earlier this week.

"I cannot believe it. Dreaming. I never thought that I would come to America. I just closed my eye, open my eyes -- I'm in America. I never thought about this," said Ahmad, the father of the family, via an interpreter.

After working as a physician in Afghanistan, Ahmad said he initially had hopes that his home country would remain stable, even after the United States announced its troop withdrawal following its 20-year occupation.

"I had a good job, everything. When [the American military] left, it was just upside down. Darkness," Ahmad said.

He said it quickly became clear that the Taliban takeover meant swift and strict changes, ranging from freedom of expression to access to education.

"In Afghanistan, there's no school for the kids. They start fighting, war, so their life was in danger," Ahmad said.

Staying in Afghanistan would have an enormous impact on his daughters. The country saw major progress in girls' education over the past two decades that were largely reversed as the Islamic fundamentalist group took power.

Once learning about an opportunity to leave the country, Ahmad and his family rushed to Kabul's airport.

"Lots of crowds. Everybody wanted to get on the plane. I don't know what I'm doing," Ahmad said of the evacuation chaos.

He described a dire situation in the country.

"There's lots of starvation. The people are suffering so much. There's no food. Nothing," Ahmad said.

While the family feels grateful for escaping safely, they arrived in the United States with few belongings, forcing them to essentially start over in a new country with a new culture.

The U.S. granted the family humanitarian parole, which is "used to bring someone who is otherwise inadmissible into the United States for a temporary period of time due to an emergency," according to Citizenship and Immigration Services. They have since applied for a visa, a process that can take years or decades.

After spending two months in a refugee resettlement camp in Virginia, a host in the Triangle offered to take them in.

"It's been amazing. They're a warm group. They're very well-connected to each other. They're very loving. They're very kind. It's been an incredible experience to have them here," said Dicla Circelli, who is hosting the family.

Circelli connected with the family through the advocacy organization Lutheran Services Carolina. She offered to host a larger family, which are often more difficult to place.

"At the end of the day, we are all humans. Some basic things should be available to all of us, like we should not have to live under threat of being murdered," Circelli said.

Neighbors have dropped off donations and are raising funds to help the family secure a home. Triangle locals have also helped fund basic necessities and much-needed medical care -- Ahmad's wife is pregnant.

Ahmad said his brother moved to the United States several years ago and currently serves in the military.

"I feel more comfortable here, relaxed. I feel safe," Ahmad said.

If you're interested in donating to their GoFundMe page, click here. If you're interested in other volunteer efforts to aid Afghan families in the area, you can reach out to the Raleigh-branch of USCRI at 919-334-0072 or Volunteer@uscrinc.org.
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